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City Spends More Than Approved on West Texas Partnership

City Council Member Charlotte Farmer has serious concerns about the city's role in the West Texas Water Partnership. She says city administrators are paying more for the partnership with Abilene and Midland than has been approved by city council.
City Council Member Charlotte Farmer has serious concerns about the city's role in the West Texas Water Partnership. She says city administrators are paying more for the partnership with Abilene and Midland than has been approved by city council.

Michelle Kingston reports.

"The question is why?" City Council Member Charlotte Farmer asked. "Why would they refuse my access to look into things?

Farmer has spent the past seven months trying to get information on the West Texas Water Partnership from the San Angelo City Manager.

"I started asking about the project, where the agreement was, because I hadn't seen it," she said. "It hadn't come back to the council, and I couldn't get any answers to anything, really, so I started pressing for the dollar amount on the project."

In 2011, the council, which Farmer sat on, approved joining the tri-city agreement to explore how to bring water here, as well as to Midland and Abilene -- but only agreed to put $100,000 toward the project.

However, the final document, titled, "The Interlocal Agreement," did not include this $100,000 limitation. It was also never signed by the city attorney.

Farmer says City Attorney Alysia Bowling never even see the agreement.

"She never saw the document. So there were numerous missteps in the whole procedure," Farmer said. "And you have to ask yourself, 'Is it possible to have this many coincidences over one item or was this a deliberate act?"

City Manager Daniel Valenzuela says he never denied Farmer access to the documentation.

"If you want to review information, you can come into City Hall and we'll provide it to you," he said. "You just can't leave with the information because it is confidential information within the documents also."

Farmer claims she never asked to take anything from City Hall.

"I'll sit over here in the corner all day long up in City Hall, won't bother anybody, but let me see it," she said she said to Valenzuela. "The answer was no. Every time."

It was not until last month -- two years later -- That Farmer finally saw the documents. That is when she discovered the City of San Angelo had spent almost double what council had approved.

"I certainly didn't want to bring it to light, but I could not not report it," Farmer said. "Because if I chose to ignore it, then I'd become subject to fines and penalties under state and federal law."

Valenzuela, who was not in office at the time the agreement was signed, said he does not believe San Angelo will be in any legal trouble.

"This was something that was discovered and we want to make sure that we are doing it legally," he said. "I've looked at it, our internal auditor has looked at the situation also. We feel that now that it has been caught, that we're trying to set it straight at this point. I don't see that there will be any legal ramifications for this."

At their meeting next week, council members will be talking about whether to continue with the West Texas Water Partnership.

Michelle Kingston, KLST News.
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